Tarpy the Tarpon, TAMU-CC’s new mascot?


Photo courtesy of @island_university

TAMU-CC’s most recent mascot, Izzy the Islander, is no longer representing the Islander community.

Many Islanders have come to know and love Izzy the Islander over the years, but voices of concern about Izzy’s appearance being an example of cultural appropriation were heard over the years, and as a result, we may be welcoming the new mascot for Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Tarpy.

Tarpy is not new to TAMU-CC, according to an article written by the Island Waves in 2019. Tarpy was the University’s former mascot from 1997 to 2004, but the switch to Izzy was made after the former Assistant Director of Student Activities, Jo Anna Benavides-Frank, said “People weren’t recognizing what the mascot was.”

Pictured is information provided on campus regarding Tarpy the Tarpon and the mascot’s history at TAMU-CC. (Alexis Garcia/ISLAND WAVES)

In the article written by former Island Waves Editor-in-Chief, Caleigh Sowder, the design of Tarpy was created through a design competition where members of the Islander and Corpus Christi community were called to vote on.

Unfortunately, Tarpy’s final design was known to be confusing, as he “did just look like a scary, bird thing with blue fur, angry eyebrows, and weird flipper feet,” Sowder said. Initially, the tarpon was only called “The Islander,” until students started calling it “Tarpy,” and eventually the name stayed.

Melinda Dunagan, a TAMU-CC music education major, gave her thoughts about the potential of Tarpy becoming the new University mascot. 

“When I first heard about it, I had no idea what a tarpon was honestly,” Dunagan said. “I decided to look it up and realized it’s a fish. Not even a cool-looking fish, it’s just a very large fish. ​​I’ve never thought too much about the mascot here, but I can say that I’ve been proud to be an Islander! But a tarpon just doesn’t have the same ring to it.”

According to the Mary and Jeff Bell Library, the 1947 student body of the University of Corpus Christi voted between the Tarpon, Broncos, or the Hurricanes for the title of the athletic teams, and the Tarpon won. 

Adam Shelton, TAMU-CC media arts major, shared his thoughts about the Tarpon mascot. “Personally, I’m on the fence about it,” Shelton said. “I think Tarpy is a bit of a joke of a name, but I’m not against the idea of being the Tarpons.”

After a series of opinion pieces written by Sowder, the appearance of Izzy the Islander was called to question as Sowder believed Izzy was a clear example of cultural appropriation to Pacific Islander culture, ultimately leading to the removal of Izzy. 

After grabbing the attention of many students on campus, Sowder was subjected to criticism for her claims. Many students did not find a problem with Izzy’s design, while many other students also voiced their criticism for Izzy’s tiki mask, and his grassy skirt with a shield and spear before they were removed.

Nonetheless, the TAMU-CC Faculty Senate took these concerns to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) where it was reported Izzy’s tattoos and mask appropriated sacred Pacific Islander cultural knowledge and expression. 

As a result, during the Spring of 2021, Izzy was removed as the official mascot for TAMU-CC. Outreach regarding Tarpy becoming the University’s mascot, as well as the selection process for a new mascot has been made, but no word has gotten back on the official status of either. Until then, students can only continue to speculate on what the new TAMU-CC mascot should be, and if we should expect to see Tarpy at major events again.